The opioid epidemic has been one of the most pressing public health crises in the United States within the past few years. This crisis has affected millions of people for different reasons and continues to be a challenge for policymakers, healthcare workers, and families throughout the United States. Here at West Coast Recovery Centers, we understand the challenges that the opioid epidemic has caused, and we are here to support you and your loved ones. In this article, we are going to explore the current state of the opioid epidemic, including its consequences, potential solutions, and treatment options offered by West Coast Recovery Centers.
What Are Opioids?
Opioids are a certain class of drugs that include synthetic, illegal, and prescription drugs. A few examples of these different forms of opioids include heroin, fentanyl, hydrocodone, and oxycodone. It’s important to understand the differences in these opioids so that you can help a loved one if needed.
This is a very powerful synthetic opioid that is very similar to morphine. However, fentanyl is between 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine, which makes this very dangerous. In many cases, fentanyl is prescribed for pain relief but can easily become addictive.
In some cases, fentanyl can also be produced illegally and cut with other drugs. When this occurs, people using these drugs are unaware of fentanyl’s presence. This can quickly lead to overdose and potential fatal overdose.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Heroin is an opioid drug made from morphine, a natural substance taken from the seed pod of the various opium poppy plants.” Heroin can be used in a variety of ways and produces many short-term and long-term effects.
Opioids are often prescribed by doctors to help relieve pain. According to NIDA, “Prescription opioids are used mostly to treat moderate to severe pain, though some opioids can be used to treat coughing and diarrhea.” Many people become dependent on these drugs, leading to substance use disorder (SUD) and addiction.
Causes of the Opioid Epidemic
The opioid epidemic has been driven by a few different factors, including the overprescription of opioids by healthcare providers, the increasing availability of cheap and potent opioids like fentanyl, and COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 500,000 in the United States have died from drug overdoses involving opioids since 1999, and this number continues to rise.
The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically impacted the opioid epidemic because of social isolation, economic insecurity, and disruptions to healthcare. These conditions that came along with COVID-19 caused anxiety and fear to rise all around the United States, and unfortunately, a lot of people turned to opioids to cope.
Who Are the Most at Risk?
Anyone who uses or is prescribed opioids is at risk of developing an addiction. However, there are certain factors that put certain groups of people even more at risk.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), drug overdoses that were caused by synthetic opioids continued to rise through 2021, with 80,411 deaths. More than 70% of the deaths were males. This shows us that men are at a greater risk of overdosing on synthetic opioids, which is why it is important to seek out help sooner rather than later.
People with a history of SUD, mental health disorders, and chronic pain are also at a higher risk. This is because they may have a greater susceptibility to the euphoric effects of opioids, or they could use them to self-medicate. Genetic factors can also play a role in someone’s increased risk of developing an addiction to opioids. For example, if a close family member struggles with SUD, then this would make the individual predisposed to addiction.
It’s important to understand these different risk factors for addiction to opioids because it can help you or a loved one in the future. If you or a loved one is struggling with opioid addiction, it’s important to seek help from a professional.
Possible Solutions for the Opioid Epidemic
Despite the challenges presented by the opioid epidemic, there are also many reasons for hope. There continues to be national and local recognition of the need to address this epidemic. Many organizations and healthcare workers have innovative approaches to preventing opioid abuse and providing treatments to those who are struggling.
Within recent years, the opioid epidemic has caused greater regulation of the pharmaceutical industry. This is because of its role in promoting the overuse of prescription opioids. For example, many states have started implementing prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs), which were put into place to track the prescribing of controlled substances.
Along with these strategies, there has only been an increase in raising awareness of holistic treatments for the opioid epidemic. This includes the social, economic, and physiological factors that can contribute to SUD. It’s important to also recognize the impact that certain underlying issues can have as well, such as poverty, trauma, and mental health problems. Here, at West Coast Recovery Centers, we ensure to prioritize holistic treatments for every individual’s unique needs. This can include yoga, meditation, individual and group therapy, and creative expression.
If you’re concerned about the opioid epidemic and want to make a difference, there are many different steps that you can take. First, you can educate yourself on the causes and consequences of this crisis and share what you’ve learned with your family and friends. Second, you can support organizations that are working to prevent opioid abuse and provide effective treatment for those struggling with addiction. This can include donating money, volunteering, or advocating for policy changes that can help address the opioid epidemic. Finally, if you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, you can seek help from West Coast Recovery Centers. For more information on our services, call us today at (760) 492-6509.